If you’re looking for an entry level single malt, that will introduce you to the delights of Islay whisky; look no further than the Bowmore 12 Year Old. Islay whisky is predominantly characterised by the smoky peat that grows rich across the island. Add to that the crashing salty waves that batter against the rocky coast and you can begin to imagine the tastes and aromas that you should expect to encounter.

The distillery itself describes its 12 year old single malt as the “raw essence of Bowmore”, perfectly capturing the nature of Islay and the generations of tradition forged within the distillery and by its whisky making process.  It has also gathered much acclaim throughout the whisky community, highly regarded and much respected whisky writer Michael Jackson said that it was “remarkably long and complex”.

For me, Bowmore 12 Year Old is about simplicity. This is the marriage of the land to the distillery, the smoky peat and salty air of Islay and the trademark fruitiness that the distillery has become known for. There are no secrets here; this is just good old humble whisky distilling and maturation. Aged for 12 years within American ex-bourbon casks and presented in a simple yet bold bottle.

As I pour myself a dram, the warm amber appearance of this malt starts to spark and alight the senses.

On the nose, true to its origin, those smoky, peaty Islay aromas fill the glass. This breathes and allows room for a sweetness, vanilla, honey and toffee come to mind.

On the palate, again the smoke and vanilla come together. A fruitier, citrus taste follows, breathing new life and sensation into this whisky. The overall texture is smooth and easy, the flavour well balanced and highly enjoyable.

As for the finish, I am reminded Jackson’s description “remarkably long and complex”. The finish is indeed long, but for me, the Islay characteristics of smoky peat and salty sea breeze leave me with a sense of warmth and comfort.

This is in my opinion what Islay whisky is all about; connecting the dram with the land. Each individual character should evoke the senses in a way that paints a vivid picture of that whisky’s journey and story; and that’s what Bowmore have achieved with their 12 year old.